A century-old home in Bruce-ville-Eddy is almost ready to open its doors as a coffee shop and a venue for live music, art and dance classes, and a farmers market, with a space for kids and a domino room.
By the time the Farm to Market Coffee Company sells its first espresso, more than 100 community members will have helped in the effort that started as a two-person venture.
Tucked on McLennan County’s southern border with Falls County, the 43-year-old city of less than 1,500 people has struggled with an economic downturn in recent years. The expansion of Interstate 35 interrupted access to local businesses and much of the community, city leaders have said. The city recently received a $10.8 million grant and loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build the first city-owned wastewater system, helping to secure the city’s future. Meanwhile, city leaders partnered with First National Bank of Moody for a City Center project that is expected to open in a little more than a year.
Council member Jason Dean said he has seen the town struggle, but he’s not giving up on the place he calls home.
Dean and business owner Vivian Williams are a few weeks shy of opening the Farm to Market Coffee Company. While the address is 303 W. Third St., the name of the company comes from local ties. The duo said everyone in the community refers to that street as Farm-to-Market Road 107, or the 107.
“This is the center of what will be the walkable downtown. It will redevelop. It’s inevitable,” Dean said.
Customers attracted to the Kissing Tree Vineyards Tasting Room have proven people will make the trek to Bruceville-Eddy, said Dean, who is also pastor of The Well church in Moody.
Each part of the renovation has tied closely to finding the beauty in older things, Dean said. Reclaimed wood, whiskey barrels turned into sinks, cabinets over a wagon axle and wheels all helps tie parts of the community’s past with its present and future, Dean said. Families have donated materials, including lots of farming equipment, which in turn has been transformed into light fixtures, entries and other amenities.
“That idea of the old connecting with the young is even played out in the way we decorate and use 100- to 150-year-old pieces, whatever pieces we’re bringing in, many of them from Bruceville-Eddy, from Moody, from McGregor, from Chilton, this area right here. It’s literally people’s grandparents’ stuff, or great-grandparents’ things,” Dean said. “We think it’s funky and it’s fun. We come from farmers. It keeps our people around us. The stories stay part of us. Nothing will be sleek. We’ll keep tweezers on hand. If you get a splinter you get 50 cents off your coffee.”
Many people have become so technology-oriented they have forgotten to learn the stories from generations before them, Williams said. The idea behind Farm to Market is to create a place where the young and the more seasoned come together over a game of dominoes or an iced coffee to share stories, she said.
Dean said his friend, entrepreneur Blake Batson, owner of the Common Grounds coffeehouse in Waco, will be in to train the baristas. Farm to Market Coffee will offer a variety of local coffees before settling on one company, Dean said. The food menu will be fluid, based on what is fresh and available, and offer a chance for a variety of locals to offer their wares.
The “Tea Room” in the shop’s old green house will serve as a meeting space that can be closed off while normal operations continue. Several community members have already offered to host classes to meet community needs. Adult education, foreign languages and driver’s education are among the variety of opportunities for the space.
After stepping up to the house’s front porch, guests will enter under a wall of old newspaper clippings highlighting the area’s history. To the right, a room’s ceiling was accidentally painted to look like a helicopter landing pad. The room is now lovingly called the 4077, referencing the “M*A*S*H” TV series about the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War.
Retired police officer Frank Holt spent the week transforming old wood into a countertop over whiskey barrels and a wagon axle and wheels.
“He’s helping us build this thing and he can’t even stand the smell of coffee,” Dean said with a smile. “That’s a labor of love. He just loves to work with his hands.”
Holt said he now restores homes, but he’s used to making locations look more modern.
“I’m doing it but it’s hard for me to do it,” Holt said with a grin. “I like them smooth and high glossed. This is the opposite of that.”
Two rooms upstairs, where the ceiling is paneled with old doors, will cater to children. One will be focused on younger kids, and the other will be focused on older kids.
A children’s and adult lending library will also be on hand, allowing customers to share a book with their neighbors or pick one up.
A 1948 Chevrolet is being moved to the back of the property, where volunteers are building a stage for live music performances. Dean said they hope to have one ticketed show a month, plus free shows for house bands and open mic nights.
One neighbor raised concerns during the rezoning process about the house-turned-business adjacent to his home, Dean said. They promised to build the neighbor a privacy fence, he said.
An open side lot will offer space for a farmers’ market and local antique flea market, Williams said.
“We need to provide things to our community so they don’t have to drive 20 miles to Waco or 20 miles to Temple to get,” Williams said. “We’re trying to provide here those things that our community needs.”
A building designed to look like a barn is also planned out back, and they hope to be fully-functional by Spring. The barn building will offer space for groups of about 20 to 25 people for activities like art and dance classes, family gatherings, reunions or bridal showers. Nearby, there will be a fenced-in playground for children.
The duo’s journey to bring the house to life was in itself a blessing from God, they said.
Dean has had a vision for a coffee house serving as a community hub for a while. He had spent about a decade trying to find the right property, he said. Each house either was out of his price range or was bought up before he could secure a deal.
Shortly after Dean became a Bruceville-Eddy City Council member, a landowner came before the city offering to donate a house. The city didn’t have a need for it, so Dean called the owner the next day to make an offer, he said. Once again, he was too late. But someone told him he should call the new owner and share his vision.
He waited three months before calling Williams.
Williams said she had lived in the area since 1999 and felt God tugging at her heart to do something beneficial for her community. Williams owns Southern Enterprises of Envirocare and opened Our Daily Bread café about a year ago near the coffee house. She said she bought the coffee house property not yet knowing what its future would hold. She always liked the idea of a coffee house but wasn’t really sure how to put that together, she said.
That’s when Dean called and introduced himself.
“When he started talking about the whole coffee house it just flooded me,” Williams said. “It was, ‘That’s why I bought it. You’re the reason I bought it.’ That’s what God wrote on my heart. I was in tears because it just all came together. When he told me his vision I said, ‘Yes. Let’s do that. I want to be part of that. That’s what God has written on my heart. I’ve been praying for an opportunity to lift up the spirit of the community, and this will be an awesome way to do that.’ ”
Since the renovation of the century-old house started, about 100 people from across the community, age 5 to age 92, have dedicated time to help bring new life to the property, she said.
“What we’ve seen already during this whole renovation process we’ve had multiple people from young to old,” Williams said. “We give tours about two to three times a day.”
“That’s no exaggeration,” Dean said.
“People are excited about it,” Williams said. “They are interested in it. They want to be part of it.”
Williams has put about $100,000 into buying and renovating the property, but the time and effort from their teams and volunteers has been even greater, the duo agreed.